Sunday, August 30, 2009

Save the forgotten gardens of Pehr Kalm

Crabapples at Pehr Kalm's experimental gardens in Sipsalo, near Turku. The main house at the back is from mid-18th century.
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An update to this post - an international appeal to save Pehr Kalm's garden - is found here.
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To my great surprise, an old garden of Pehr Kalm, one of Carl von Linné's earliest and most important students, has surfaced near Turku (or Åbo, as it is called in Swedish), my hometown on the South Western shores of Finland. My sister notified me of an article in the local newspaper, and given how culturally interested my sister, her husband and the rest of my family are, it is incredible that none of us had any idea that this garden still existed (albeit in an overgrown state - how much of the original garden from the 18th century remain is an open question). Now, the owner of the garden and adjoining farm has died, and the descendants have unsuccessfully tried to offer the place for the local universities, the Swedish speaking Academy of Turku (Åbo Akademi) and the Finnish speaking University of Turku (Turun Yliopisto). Unfortunately, none of them has expressed interest in buying the place, stating bad economical times as a reason.

Pehr Kalm (1716-1779) was a naturalist, explorer, agricultural economist and priest, who despite a poor childhood showed such talent, that he was sponsored to study first at the Academy of Turku and later at the Uppsala University in Sweden, where he met Carl von Linné (Linnaeus). He became the superintendent of an experimental planting in Uppsala, and was sponsored by the owner of the planting to travel first in Sweden, Finland, Russia (1742–1745) and later to North America (1748–1751), visiting Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Niagara Falls, Montreal and Quebec. Kalm wrote a journal of his travels to North America, En resa til Nord America, which was published already during his lifetime in four different languages. A new American edition of the book was publised in the 1930's, and it still is an important reference to life in colonial North America. In Species Plantarum, Linné cites Pehr Kalm for 90 species of which 60 were new; the most well-known genus is probably Kalmia, named by Carl von Linné after him.

Pehr Kalm tried to grow mulberries and start a silk industry in Finland.

After his travels, Kalm worked in Turku as professor and was also involved with plantings at the botanical garden of the Academy of Turku. In 1752 he was given land for experimental plantings in Sipsalo, in Hirvensalo near Turku. Here, he cultivated many seeds and plants from his travels to North America, introducing several new genus to Finland, like the now more than common Crataegus grayana, Rubus odoratus and Parthenocissus inserta. He grew several species of crabapples, Malus baccata and other Malus species. He also tried to grow mulberries, Morus rubra, in hope of starting a silk industry in Finland, which of natural reasons come to nothing as both the plants and silk worms suffered in the cold climate.

In what came to be his last letter, Pehr Kalm wrote in 1779 to Arch Bishop Mennander in Turku, expressing concerns about the future of his both gardens, the Botanical garden and Sipsalo's experimental plantings. Now would be a late but excellent opportunity to answer his concerns and do something about this possibility; despite probably being overgrown and neglected, Sipsalo represents an important piece of cultural and garden history in Finland, and is interesting for botanists, garden historians and culturally interested tourists even on a international level. Linné's Hammarby could hold as a model for a successful historical preservation and restoration of Sipsalo; then the life's work of both the teacher and his talented student would be appreciated and celebrated in a way they both so well deserve.

I looking into ways of convincing the city of Turku of saving Pehr Kalm's gardens. Stay tuned for more information.

Kalmin salaisen puutarhan kohtalo auki, article in Turun Sanomat August 28th, 2009. Both photos courtesy of Turun Sanomat.

See also Linnéträdgården, and the Botanical Gardens of Uppsala and Linnés Hammarby, Carl von Linné's charming home and garden in Uppsala, North of Stockholm in Sweden.

5 comments:

Ruben said...

Superintressant! Beundrar dessa Linnés "lärjungar" som med så stor entusiasm gav sig ut i världen. Hoppas verkligen att något finns att göra för att bevara miljön. /Ruben

Mimi said...

Ja det var ju otroligt intressant! Det var Ruben här ovan som tipsade mej om det här inlägget! Jag är ju också Åbobo, tyvärr har jag inte TS så jag har ju helt missat denhär grejen! ´Måste ta mej en tur dit och kolla in resterna av trädgården!

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Ruben, visst är det jätteintressant; jag håller på att kolla vad jag kan bidra med så här på avstånd för att spara den här trädgården. Vilken kulturskatt! Och vacker är det också.

Mimi, roligt att höra från en; det är inte ofta jag får besök från Åbo på mina sidor! Välkommen. Jag tyckte mycket om alla fina antikviteter på dina sidor.

Pertti Pyhtilä said...

Dear Int'l Gardener,

Arno Kasvi has written an article about Sipsalo to Muuriankkuri (by www.kulttuuriperinto.fi ) and I would very much like to have one of Your photos for the magazine (already in Jan-Feb 2010)???!

+prti

Fredrik said...

Hej,
Jag ar en svensk historiker bosatt i Chicago som forskar om just Kalm. Har det tillkommit nagra nyheter om Sipsalo tradgarden sedan du skrev sist om den? Kontakta mig garna via fljonsso@uchicago.edu
Fredrik Albritton Jonsson